Jesus Needs New PR

Jesus Needs New PR


Quote of the Day! (featuring @albertmohler)

As I have stated repeatedly, I accept without hesitation the fact that the world indeed looks old. Armed with naturalistic assumptions, I would almost assuredly come to the same conclusions as BioLogos and the evolutionary establishment, or I would at least find evolutionary arguments credible. But the most basic issue is, and has always been, that of worldview and basic presuppositions. The entire intellectual enterprise of evolution is based on naturalistic assumptions, and I do not share those presuppositions. Indeed, the entire enterprise of Christianity is based on supernaturalistic, rather than merely naturalistic, assumptions. There is absolutely no reason that a Christian theologian should accept the uniformitarian assumptions of evolution. In fact, given a plain reading of Scripture, there is every reason that Christians should reject a uniformitarian presupposition. The Bible itself offers a very different understanding of natural phenomena, with explanations that should be compelling to believers. In sum, there is every reason for Christians to view the appearance of the cosmos as graphic evidence of the ravages of sin and the catastrophic nature of God’s judgment upon sin. -Al Mohler..

If you’re unfamiliar with Al, you can read his bio/credentials here.

I found this quote here.

THOUGHTS?



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Andy Darnell

posted January 6, 2011 at 8:48 pm


Nice Quote.



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Will adair

posted January 6, 2011 at 8:50 pm


Does it matter?



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Rocco

posted January 6, 2011 at 9:00 pm


Uh, I don’t get it.



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    noelle

    posted January 6, 2011 at 9:27 pm


    Me either. Too many big words in a nonsense tangle. I got no idea what he’s saying



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      noelle

      posted January 6, 2011 at 9:40 pm


      K. I turned on the brain. (at this time of night, on a Thursday even). He says evolution’s wrong and all good Christians should agree. What’s with all the big words? Supposed to make that statement look smarter?



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    Grace

    posted January 6, 2011 at 11:36 pm


    He’s basically saying he disagrees with the main principle on which all scientific research rests: natural knowledge is based on observation of the natural world.

    He concedes that the world looks very old, but insists that it can’t possibly be old because the Bible says otherwise. In other words, we can’t trust the evidence we see in the natural world if it contradicts (his interpretation of) the Bible. By the standards of scientific inquiry that’s a completely nonsensical statement.



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K. L. MacKenzie

posted January 6, 2011 at 9:03 pm


Are Mohler & the BioLogos guys STILL chewing that bone? Wasn’t their initial dust-up back in September or something? Sheesh, at this rate they both should just turn their disagreement into a seasonal thing like the PBS pledge drives. After all, even wars of words need funding…and I can’t see any other reason for either these parties to keep pounding this particular patch of sand.



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Matt

posted January 6, 2011 at 9:07 pm


I saw this earlier and was saddened by it. How can you debate or engage with someone who says they don’t believe in facts because his presuppositions don’t allow him to believe them? At least he’s being honest I guess.



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Josh

posted January 6, 2011 at 9:12 pm


That’s reason number 42 why I’m not a Southern Baptist (reason 41 has to do with ethanol). It makes me long for the days when I attended an EPC church at college, where they knew how to let the non-essentials be the non-essentials…



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Sarah Mae

posted January 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm


I’m not sure about the last sentence, but everything else makes perfect sense.



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    kristinherdy

    posted January 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm


    God made the world look old, then, why? to trick us? to allow the Devil and evil evolutionists to trick us?



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Justin B.

posted January 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm


The “plain reading” argument? Seriously?



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Dianna

posted January 6, 2011 at 9:26 pm


Bah, Mohler. He dresses up old, terrible, hackneyed arguments in fancy academic prose to make them sound better. He’s still saying the same old thing, however, and what he’s saying is wrong.



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    Matt Emery

    posted January 6, 2011 at 10:47 pm


    OMG this this this!!!!



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    Grace

    posted January 6, 2011 at 11:37 pm


    Yes. Intelligent-sounding, but still a stupid argument.



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      Noelle

      posted January 7, 2011 at 10:56 am


      kinda like anti-freeze smells sweet, but it’s not real sugar. don’t pour it in your coffee



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Marni

posted January 6, 2011 at 9:39 pm


Extremist mindset – one side or the other – has always been a huge turn off for me.

This mindset is the kind that completely suggests that we can completely understand God based upon the minute amount of information He has given us in scripture. He has given us just enough of what He wants for us to know. To assume we know Him completely based on that, is foolish – and honestly, heretical. No one, I mean no one, can understand God – or how, and in what true time frame, He created all of our world and universe.

I hold fast to the belief that yes, God created all of our world and universe – but that it all unfolded over a period of time. That period of time is not written in the scripture – and to suggest this world is merely just over 2000 years old is ludicrous.

I could go on and on with this, but I will stop. As you can tell, I am fairly passionate about this topic.



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    Silica

    posted January 7, 2011 at 12:42 pm


    I agree completely with you. I don’t understand why God can only be what we can see or understand. Our observations of the universe only increase the number of questions we have about it – which I find awe-inspiring and aiding my faith, not something to ignore so I can be comforted by my limited capacity for understanding the greatness of God.



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Alise

posted January 6, 2011 at 10:04 pm


He can keep on doing this and continue to drive people out of the church. Well done.



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Becca

posted January 6, 2011 at 10:30 pm


I still don’t get why this matters, at all.



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LRA

posted January 6, 2011 at 10:50 pm


*sigh*

This Mohler guy is WRONG. So very, very wrong.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pseudo-science/



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    LRA

    posted January 6, 2011 at 10:54 pm

      LRA

      posted January 6, 2011 at 10:57 pm


      So wrong because he doesn’t understand the difference between philosophical naturalism and methodological naturalism:

      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/naturalism/



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        LRA

        posted January 7, 2011 at 12:01 am


        “As I have stated repeatedly, I accept without hesitation the fact that the world indeed looks old.”

        So, he’s saying the person who created that world has made the world look a way that it is not… that said creator is a deceiver?

        “Armed with naturalistic assumptions, I would almost assuredly come to the same conclusions as BioLogos and the evolutionary establishment, or I would at least find evolutionary arguments credible. But the most basic issue is, and has always been, that of worldview and basic presuppositions.”

        No, the basic issue here is *falsifiability*. Clearly, Mr. Mohler has never heard of Karl Popper.

        “The entire intellectual enterprise of evolution is based on naturalistic assumptions,”

        Indeed, ALL OF SCIENCE is based on naturalistic assumptions… methodological naturalism. Methodological naturalism =/= philosophical naturalism, but that is a subtlety that I wouldn’t expect this doofus catch.

        “and I do not share those presuppositions. Indeed, the entire enterprise of Christianity is based on supernaturalistic, rather than merely naturalistic, assumptions. There is absolutely no reason that a Christian theologian should accept the uniformitarian assumptions of evolution. In fact, given a plain reading of Scripture, there is every reason that Christians should reject a uniformitarian presupposition.”

        Fine. But realize that when these sorts of statements get made, people who are savvy think it’s silliness.

        “The Bible itself offers a very different understanding of natural phenomena, with explanations that should be compelling to believers.”

        However, the Bible’s epistemological claims are DEMONSTRABLY FALSE. Furthermore, it’s supernatural claims aren’t demonstrable AT ALL. But neither are Islam’s, or Buddhism’s, or Hinduism’s. Whatever your metaphysical commitments are, whatever your philosophies or opinions are you are *not* welcome to your own facts (especially without *evidence*).

        “In sum, there is every reason for Christians to view the appearance of the cosmos as graphic evidence of the ravages of sin and the catastrophic nature of God’s judgment upon sin.”

        Wow. What a loving “God”.

        With spokespeople like this, Jesus does indeed need new PR.



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          LRA

          posted January 7, 2011 at 12:46 am


          Kenneth Miller, a Christian and a biologist, gives a really excellent talk at Case Western Reserve about why evolution is correct and ID creationism is wrong. If anyone is interested, here it is:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVRsWAjvQSg



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          Deb94

          posted January 7, 2011 at 8:24 am


          I have heard the statement that God created the universe with “the appearance of age.”
          “Why would he do that?” I ask.
          The answer? Well, when He created Adam, he created him as an adult, and not a baby. See, it makes sense.

          I don’t buy it. My husband and I are science teachers, and Christians, and fairly conservative at that. But it is possible to be a Christian and still believe in evolution.



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        sbuxjosh

        posted January 7, 2011 at 12:24 am


        Thank god somebody noticed this!!



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millionairecigs

posted January 6, 2011 at 10:52 pm


First off, the term “Christian Evolutionist” has always sounded like a big contradiction to me. But whether or not you agree with what he’s saying, he makes valid points. How can one be both? It’s never made sense to me, but to each his own as I always say



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    Erin

    posted January 7, 2011 at 7:35 am


    Because Christian =/= Bible literalist. There are a lot of Christians and we are not all the same. Personally, I don’t think we need to be.



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    Justin

    posted January 7, 2011 at 9:15 am


    You’re saved by Jesus, not by your views on evolutionary theory.



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    Noelle

    posted January 7, 2011 at 11:12 am


    All religions have creation stories.

    All religions have other stories too.

    No religion insists every member interpret every story as literal. This includes Christians. Jesus himself was exasperated with his disciples when they kept asking literal questions about his proverbs.

    Religion came after people. After evolution already led to us being here. Our brains are wired to try to understand what’s around us. The ancient people who created those stories didn’t have the benefit of the Discovery Channel and Advanced Biology courses. It’s more than ok to change old belief systems when new information becomes available (hey, the earth isn’t the center of the universe! hey, cleft palates aren’t caused by the phases of the moon!). It’s a necessary part of being an educated human.

    Do you have to discard faith because you’re educated? No. I know many do and that’s a perfectly logical way to go. I don’t fault them and often wonder why I haven’t done the same. Are you required to not believe science when it contradicts old stories? No.



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@millionairecigs

posted January 6, 2011 at 11:00 pm


by the way, I didn’t say I agreed w/him….I was just trying to avoid going into depth & just state that he does make interesting points about Christianity / evolution going hand in hand.



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Grace

posted January 6, 2011 at 11:53 pm


Gosh, where to start. He’s basically saying he gets to pick and choose what scientific research is valid based on his interpretation of the Bible, even though methodological naturalism is a basic, fundamental principle underlying ALL scientific research. The same approach to scientific inquiry that led to retroviral drugs, that allows us to understand geological phenomena or predict the weather, etc. etc., is the same approach to science that led to evolutionary theory. What he’s saying is utter gibberish by any reasonable scientific standard.

It was easier to pull the wool over young people’s eyes before the internet and relatively easy access to scientific information. And let’s be real, that’s what this is about ultimately about; most people over a certain age have already made up their minds what they think about evolution one way or another. Kids who stay in their evangelical bubbles probably won’t find anything alarming or troubling in Mohler’s words. But given a halfway decent science education, or a little time around people who haven’t been brainwashed into thinking the Bible is a science textbook, you can’t sustain a myth like creationism for terribly long. This kind of blatant disregard for facts will ultimately end up driving a lot of young people out of the church.



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Arni Zachariassen

posted January 7, 2011 at 5:33 am


As people have pointed out very adequately, Mohler’s statement is scientific nonsense. Science is the investigation of the natural. That’s all it is. Taking that seriously is not scientism. Scientism is saying that all there is is the scientific. No one (in this debate) is saying that. How hard can it be to get that?
What’s even more worrying to me is how bad his theological method is in this regard. He’s basically pushing a haphazard biblicism, where he never goes deeper than the “plain reading” of Scripture. As he says, he accepts what science says in everything but what he thinks the Bible is saying. He probably one of those people who thinks the size of the universe testifies to the majesty of God – yet doesn’t see how he completely undermines the way that fact has been found out by claiming that the universe is 6,000 years old. You can only say those two things by not thinking about things. A good theology of creation, I think, demands that we take creation itself seriously and let it speak for itself. In other words, respecting science. Mohler does non of the sort. Most important to him is protecting his view of the Bible as inerrant. That’s it.
I hate when people post links to my blog, but I wrote about this yesterday. Maybe someone finds it interesting: http://www.arnizachariassen.com/ithinkibelieve/?p=1567



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bekah mason

posted January 7, 2011 at 6:38 am


Seems like a lot of these commenters’ are in the same boat as Dr. Mohler; their presuppositions prevent them from even considering another option. From that last statement, Dr. Mohler isn’t denying the natural record, he’s giving another plausible explanation for it. Is it not possible that the effects of sin and brokeness could really be as devastating for all of creation as Scripture states?



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    Grace

    posted January 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm


    Science isn’t infallible, and there’s a huge human and cultural aspect to the practice of science that we often overlook, but it is a basic assumption of all scientific inquiry that we base our conclusions about the natural world on what we can observe, measure, and test. Sure, it’s possible that sin could have made the world look as old as it does. But it’s complete nonsense to propose that as a scientific hypothesis. Sin can’t be quantified, it’s effects can’t be predicted or measured or observed. The notion that sin made the world look old can’t be tested or falsified.



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Rob Gill

posted January 7, 2011 at 8:30 am


I went to his website and there is a list of topics down the side of the page. I guess he has the answer to every question. This is exactly what is wrong with Christianity today, the idea that “all Christians should agree” with him because it is all so clear. Well, it’s not clear and the Bible, IMHO, was not meant to be read as some sort of literal transcription of God’s actual words. It’s a conversation, a story of people, written by people. The Biblical story of creation was the best explanation for the tribesmen who sat around the campfire at night in those early days.



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Kevin

posted January 7, 2011 at 8:40 am


Forgive me if somebody already said this, but: Those who dismiss Mohler’s rationale must also embrace what naturalistic assumptions say about a resurrection.

If we’re only allowed to retain those parts of the Bible that pass the tests of this year’s science, God Himself disappears. I am not anti-science, and I absolutely believe one can support evolution and still be a wonderful Christian. But God and His Word reign supreme over the scientific method, not vice versa.



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    LRA

    posted January 7, 2011 at 9:23 am


    We aren’t talking about “this year’s science”– we are talking about the underpinnings of all of the biological sciences, evolution. Evolution is to biology what gravity is to physics. Plus, evolution has 150 years of evidence to back it up from many, many fields of science. The fact that the taxonomic tree turns out the same for a paleontologist constructing it based on bone morphology and a molecular biologist constructing it based on DNA annealing studies is pretty rock solid evidence of the relations of animals via common descent.

    Also, to say that the Bible is supreme over science is confusing… Science does not take people’s personal biases into account when operating (of course science is conducted by people and is a human construct, but its power lies in the fact that a Hindu scientist raised in America can come up with the same facts that a Shinto scientist in Japan can or that a Catholic scientist in Italy can). The fact is that the Bible makes claims (if taken literally) that are demonstrably wrong. Insects do not have 4 legs, pi is not 3, and the earth did not poof into existence 6000 years ago.

    Which puts one in a real dilemma… does one dismiss the claims of the Bible as myth (especially parts that were clearly meant to be taken literally, like the death and resurrection of Jesus) or does one accept those claims and just deal with the cognitive dissonance of the irrationality of it?

    I eventually chose the former after living with the latter for as long as I could. But everyone is different. Either way, it doesn’t matter… except for matters of Federal Funding and public education… then, it matters big time (hence the current culture wars).



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      Kevin

      posted January 7, 2011 at 10:38 pm


      So you do believe Jesus rose from the dead, or you don’t?



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        LRA

        posted January 8, 2011 at 9:29 am


        No. There is neither substantial nor credible evidence for such a claim, so I remain skeptical.



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          Jason Sagel

          posted January 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm


          I think there is sufficient evidence to suggest the God raised Jesus from the dead. The only ad hoc is that the biblical God exists. This is an inductive argument, but a powerful one in my opinion. There are 7 historically reliable facts that are accepted by both conservative and skeptical historical scholars. 1) Jesus died on a Roman cross 2) Jesus was buried 3) Jesus’ disciples BELIEVED he rose from the dead (after having no predisposition to thinking messiah’s raise from the dead. 4) The conversion of church persecutor Paul 5) Conversion of Jesus’ skeptical half brother James 6) The empty tomb and 7) the explosion of Christianity

          All 7 of these I can explain more in depth in need be (which I expect they might). If one already has the worldview as Hume and Kant had, that said miracles aren’t possible, then of course you won’t accept this miracle. It is however not okay to say that there is not enough evidence to suggest the contrary.



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          LRA

          posted January 8, 2011 at 5:12 pm


          Hmmm. Well, I think reasons 1-7 are perfect examples of circular logic. The Bible says it, so it must be true because the Bible says it.

          And, no, secular historians do not agree with any of those claims as “historically reliable”. And we all know that Josephus is unreliable because he’s reporting from the Bible.

          1) Jesus died on a Roman cross

          Where are the Roman records indicating this?

          2) Jesus was buried

          Again, any records? Jewish records? Roman records?

          3) Jesus’ disciples BELIEVED he rose from the dead (after having no predisposition to thinking messiah’s raise from the dead.

          We live in times when people believe in Islam so strongly that they blow themselves up, so you should know that strong belief means nothing for the truth or falsity of a proposition.

          4) The conversion of church persecutor Paul

          Records? (Besides the Bible/ tradition)

          5) Conversion of Jesus’ skeptical half brother James

          Records?

          6) The empty tomb

          Records?

          7) the explosion of Christianity

          So, you really think that other religions never got a foot hold and grew? Hinduism? Buddhism? Mormonism? Really? You think that?

          Like I said, no substantial or credible evidence other than the Bible’s assertion that the Bible is correct about the Bible’s assertions. And if that is all the evidence you require, then there is no reason to not be a Muslim. Or a Buddhist. Or Hindu.



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          Jason Sagel

          posted January 9, 2011 at 8:13 pm


          I am not taking arguments from authority, I am taking the Bible as a group of historical documents. Also, for #1 on top of 4 independent sources, you have pliny the younger, tacitus, and the apologists to name a few.

          I promise you that the majority of secular historians agree with these claims. Where are you basing that they don’t? Check out atheist historian Gerd Ludeman. He verifies #1 & #3

          Also for a rebuttal against number 3. Muslims get there information from second and third source material. The disciples were direct witnesses to the fact, and they also died for there beliefs. The analogy you made is apples and oranges.



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          LRA

          posted January 10, 2011 at 10:22 am


          You are citing *theologians*. Theologians are *not* historians! (Even the atheist you cite is a theologian!)

          Again, secular historians (including archaeologists) are *not* convinced of 1-7. They may agree that an itinerant preacher named Yeshua spread a religious message in ancient Israel around 30 CE, but that in *no* way makes him some Christ/divine figure that performed miracles or died and resurrected.

          Also, you really need to read up on the unreliability of eyewitness reports. Such reports are useful when evaluated for their competing/complementary information… when taken IMMEDIATELY. The earliest gospel wasn’t even recorded until at least 70 CE– 40 years after the event, and not even by eye witnesses!

          http://agora.stanford.edu/sjls/Issue%20One/fisher&tversky.htm

          Again, your evidence is very, very weak.



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          LRA

          posted January 10, 2011 at 10:30 am


          Oh, and I might add that historians (actual historians) have pointed out the fact that there was *never* a census that required the traveling of people back to their hometowns (like Bethlehem), that the slaughtering of the innocents by Harod *never* happened, and that there is *no* evidence whatsoever that a large group of people wandered around the desert for 40 years.

          So, not only is there very, very weak claims for the events of the Bible, there are even claims that are demonstrably false.



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    Erin

    posted January 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm


    I was raised with a literal, inerrant approach to the Bible. When I began to realize that it simply did not hold up, my faith took a hard hit. It’s been a while now, and I’ve come to realize that God is so much bigger than a book, or a church, or anything other manmade thing that we try to confine Him into. The Bible is not what’s important. It’s a tool, and it’s useful, but so many Christians today seem to think that it IS God, and that’s idolatry.



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DYMongoose

posted January 7, 2011 at 8:51 am


So if I understand correctly, he (and most commenters) are saying that intelligent design (specifically Biblical creationism) violates the rules of science, and therefore, the two cannot co-exist within this context.

Could the same not also be said about turning water into wine, feeding 5,000+ people with a handful of food, walking on water, and bringing the dead back to life?

Some things require faith rather than what appearances, circumstances and observations try to get us to believe.



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    LRA

    posted January 7, 2011 at 9:27 am


    No, the two cannot co-exist. Intelligent design creationism claims that evolution is false.

    You might be thinking of theistic evolution (see Francis Collins and the BioLogos project).



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    Danny

    posted January 7, 2011 at 9:28 am


    This. A thousand times this. If we are to take the position that states, “if Science proves it, it doesn’t matter what scriptures says on the subject,” then we have just completely unraveled the majority of what the Bible says.



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      Dianna

      posted January 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm


      OR, maybe we understand the difference between mythic literature and historical evangelical tracts (for lack of a better term) and can take science at its word when it comes to the idea of creation and what can be observed in the natural world, and still accept the idea that miracles exist (ie, the Resurrection). Thi is because we understand the literary difference between Genesis, written as records of the creation myths of the Israelites and their covenant with God, and the Gospels written by disciples of Christ who were only a few years behind him and knew people who had known him personally and had access to first hand accounts of his death and resurrection.

      I hate the argument that “you prove one part of the Bible wrong with science, what’s to say you can’t go do it to others” because it does a major disservice to the massively varied literary tradition inherent within the Biblical text. We don’t expect Wisdom to show up literally as a Woman and start guiding us. We don’t expect that a beautiful woman looks like the description in Song of Songs. We need to understand that the Bible is a mash up of all sorts of varied literary traditions, covering thousands of years of culture and history for one nation, often being written down after spending years and years in the oral tradition. This means that just as the Bible cannot be taken as a scientific text, it ALSO cannot ALL be disproved by science. There are some inexplicable things that happen that science cannot explain. And we can understand those parts to be more literal than others because we understand the genre of literature it comes from.



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        LRA

        posted January 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm


        I wish I knew of a Bible that marks and comments on all these traditions. It would be nice to know when poetry ends and “reporting” (if you will) begins.



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          Dianna

          posted January 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm


          That’s what historical and contextual study is for. How do we know that Dickens is a Victorian author? Because we know what time he lived in, what the literature was like at that time, and how he fits into it. How do we know that Chaucer is in the epic tradition and all the little things he was doing in responding to the church throughout Canterbury Tales? Because we are able to know, study and understand the historical context. Almost no book worth its salt tells you on its face “THIS IS A WESTERN” or “THIS IS AN EPIC IN THE HOMERIC TRADITION” or “THIS IS A PIECE OF DEPRESSING MODERNIST FICTION ABOUT SEX.”

          No, we know what these genres and literary elements are because we study them, we study the time period in which we can approximate their development, we study the texts that surround them from that time. No Bible is going to mark it out for you – that’s why careful study is needed (and why “plain reading” is bullcrap).

          I’m sorry for what is probably an overreaction, but a comment like that, to me (a lit and theology nut), is the equivalent of me saying to you “I wish those cells that we’re trying to study would just stand up and tell us what they are” or “I wish these plants jut came with labels so we didn’t have to work to understand them.” It undermines and insults the entire concept of scientific (or, in this case, Biblical and literary) study.



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          LRA

          posted January 7, 2011 at 4:44 pm


          Sorry if I came across wrong! Oops! :(

          What I was trying to say is that if the Bible is literature, of course you’d expect it to have genres and context, etc. Of course it would be complex and multifaceted… it is a *human* work after all… (btw, I just completed my degree in English and philosophy last spring… I am planning to go into a PhD program for science and culture studies)

          But people claim that the Bible is the “Word of God.” If that is the case, then why is it so complex, confusing, and not at all clearly communicative of what is expected of us? If my eternal “soul” is on the line, then I shouldn’t need a PhD in Greek, Hebrew, and Biblical Hermeneutics and Exegesis to understand it. It should be laid out in very, clear, simple language what is needed and expected of me in order to do what God wants.



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          Dianna

          posted January 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm


          I understand that, and I likely misread your statement and reacted harshly (It’s 8AM on Saturday where I am, and I’m jetlagged, so I’ve been up since four). I just don’t appreciate when people expect literature to be easy, as you probably well know. And I think the same thing applies for the Bible – it’s certainly not going to be easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

          And I realize that you and I will diverge on this point, and I’m okay with that, but I do want to say that I don’t think interpretation of the Bible necessarily requires that we posses a PhD in Biblical Study in order to derive spiritual benefit (I say this as a person with a theology degree). I think interpretation of the Bible requires two things: 1. Understanding and admitting that we could, in all likelihood, be wrong, even if we are an “expert” on the topic, and 2. A willingness to both trust and question those who have taken their time to study the issue.

          What we get with Biblical literalism, or “plain reading,” as represented by Mohler and his ilk, especially in this particular quote, is the idea that we don’t NEED other people who have studied it in context, who have poured their life’s work into understanding the contexts of the Bible and attempting to get as close to the truth of it as they can. All we need is the eyes God gave us and the ability to read! And that, I believe, is fundamentally wrong – a non-literalist interpretation of the Bible not only requires that we rely on the community and effort of those who surround us (a fundamentally Biblical concept and Church doctrine), but that we do so with humility and conscientiousness. The idea that I can walk up to the Bible with just my own uneducated brain and tease out the Truth of Scripture without the help of a community surrounding me is profoundly arrogant, and deeply unBiblical.



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          LRA

          posted January 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm


          Dianna, I seriously appreciate the work that you’ve put into studying and understanding the Bible… I admire it! That is *awesome*!!!

          I personally believe that the Bible is one of the great works of human art and there is much beauty and wisdom contained within it. However, there is much beauty and wisdom in so many other works of art, too. Human experience is so very vast and complicated and has been recorded for about 8,000 years now(longer if you look at cave paintings and other stone age artifacts) and so the Bible is but one little piece of that vast history.

          What I often ask Christians such as yourself is: Given the huge cannon of human art, what makes the Bible special?

          From my point of view, nothing makes it any more special than any other work of art. It does not stand out to me above the Vedas or the Koran, it tells me no more about humanity than Shakespeare the Buddha does. It is no more right or wrong about philosophical matters than existentialism or Platonism. It does not write poetry that is more superior to Homer or TS Eliot (or even Mark Strand). What, then, makes it special?



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        Sbuxjosh

        posted January 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm


        Exactly. This way of reading scripture is what makes you a fundie. Christian or atheist.
        Just because the bible is wrong on a scientific issue doesn’t mean Christianity is false. The bible is made up of 66 books by some 70 Authors who wrote for different reasons to different people. It’s ok if they don’t all agree. In fact, we should expect them to disagree on some things.



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JMJ

posted January 7, 2011 at 9:10 am


Unlike many who commented (and I suspect much of MPT’s readership), I like mohler, and read his blog regularly.

First reaction: this quote should not be taken in isolation. Read the entire blog post from which it was taken.

From my minimal understanding of Mohler’s posts, his entire stance is predicated (BTW, I’m not a scientist) on the fact that evolution, if true, would discredit the entire Bible. Why? Because the notion of original sin and Jesus’ purity because of his Divine Virgin Birth is all tied into a man and a woman named Adam and Eve first sin.

If redemption and salvation is dependent on this interpretation, of course it is easy to see how Mohler et al believe the way they do.

Furthermore, these assumptions come from basic presuppositions of what the Bible is: if the Bible truly is the inspired word of God, and our hope of eternal salvation is based on what it says, then logically, all the theological constructs building those doctrines are true. But if the Bible is not God’s word or only partially God’s word, how are we to judge which part is and which part isn’t? How can we have an objective standard.

Personally, I’m with Mohler on this. But that’s just me.

J.



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    LRA

    posted January 7, 2011 at 9:41 am


    “if the Bible truly is the inspired word of God, and our hope of eternal salvation is based on what it says, then logically, all the theological constructs building those doctrines are true. But if the Bible is not God’s word or only partially God’s word, how are we to judge which part is and which part isn’t?”

    I’ve been asking that question, too. So far, no one has a really good answer to it.



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    Justin

    posted January 7, 2011 at 10:21 am


    “If redemption and salvation is dependent on this interpretation, of course it is easy to see how Mohler et al believe the way they do.”

    Redemption and salvation aren’t dependent upon this interpretation. I understand why Mohler and other like-minded Christians think so (since I used to think the same way), but I disagree.

    Adam and Even not being historical figures wouldn’t undercut the fact that each of us are capable of and have committed evil. A different interpretation of Genesis, particularly chapter 3, means we don’t know the exact details of how mankind fell from grace. That doesn’t mean our “fall” didn’t happen at all.



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    Grace

    posted January 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm


    I get that it’s troubling to think about theological implications of naturalism. But what you’re saying is that you a priori accept that the Bible is the word of God, and that it must be read a given way, and that you selectively accept the validity of a principle that underlies ALL scientific inquiry based on whether or not the results it yields lines up with your a priori assumptions. That leaves us with no objective standard whatsoever for doing science.

    The overwhelming evidence for evolution and the old age of the earth isn’t the only problem for biblical literalism – archaeology, history, linguistics, and pretty much every field of science and social science we have raises a lot of questions, too. For example, based on all the historical and archaeological evidence we have, many parts of the Bible are either identical in language or very similar in content or structure to documents from other ancient near Eastern cultures and religions. Why would God make parts of the Bible appear to have been lifted from Assyrian legal documents, for example? Or make commands about maintaining the temple and Israelite laws appear to be modeled on purity codes from Canaanite and other near Eastern religions? It’s definitely a problem.

    A great read on this is How to Read the Bible by James Kugel – who, to be clear, is an Orthodox Jew who does believe in the inspiration of the Bible, but also believes in the validity of 200+ years of biblical scholarship based on archaeology and history.



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DT

posted January 7, 2011 at 10:20 am


1. Paul’s theology requires a literal Adam and Eve.
-Some will argue God could have endued mankind with souls at some point or specially created Adam and Eve, but…

2. The Scripture uses the argument from design (teleological argument) over and over and over again.
-Scripture attributes all of nature to a designing Creator.

3. Any suggestion of evolutionary origins within the early church would have been immediately condemned as Epicureanism.
-The early church was not unaware of the concept of evolution. Epicureanism, a major philosophical enemy of the early church, promoted such an idea.



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KatR

posted January 7, 2011 at 10:35 am


This is part of why I think I’m drifting farther and farther away from Christianity. My patience with “2+2=5 because God says so!” is running out.



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Zack

posted January 7, 2011 at 10:44 am


Mohler doesn’t posses half the intelligence his followers ascribe to him. The reason so many fundamentalists cling to him as their beacon of light and wisdom is that unlike most of them he has the ability to us polysyllabic words.



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watchman

posted January 7, 2011 at 10:46 am


Exactly what does he mean by a ‘plain’ reading of scripture? I assume that means ‘his’ reading of scripture.



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    LRA

    posted January 7, 2011 at 10:56 am


    Solo scriptura, perhaps?



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      watchman

      posted January 7, 2011 at 11:13 am


      Often when people trumpet ‘Sola Scriptura’ they mean ‘ignore context.’ Genesis certainly was not written to answer our scientific questions. It was written to tell the story of the People of the Covenant.

      If we read the origins story as if it were a scientific treatise we get a different story than if it we read it as a story about the Patriarchs.



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        LRA

        posted January 7, 2011 at 11:32 am


        I think what’s confusing about it is that Jesus often quotes the Laws and the Prophets… for instance he does so in Luke 4 then Satan tempts him in the desert. Do we then infer that Jesus believed in a literal interpretation of the OT?

        I’ve noticed that Jesus emulates the Patriarchs a bunch–ie in Luke ch 4, 40 days in the desert represents 40 years in the desert for the proto-Israelites, and so there seems to be some symbolic meaning there. Jesus doesn’t literally wander around lost in the desert for 40 years, but he does literally wander around for 40 days. Jesus isn’t literally a spotless lamb being killed as a sacrifice, but he is literally killed (if one believes that story literally).

        What are we supposed to make of all of this, especially when there are threats of eternal damnation tied up with the acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice (or is that mostly symbolic with a smaller literal dimension, too?).



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    DT

    posted January 7, 2011 at 11:06 am


    If we reduce everything to “it’s your reading/interpretation of scripture” than scripture loses any final meaning at all.



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      joel k

      posted January 7, 2011 at 12:14 pm


      How so? One can acknowledge that Scripture has an absolute meaning, which may or may not be the meaning that I derive from it. Arguably, this realization allows us to get closer to the absolute meaning than we would if we simply insisted (as many literalists do) that our interpretation is necessarily the most valid.



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        DT

        posted January 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm


        Once you arrive at the absolute meaning, you necessarily insist that your interpretation is the most valid. To fault creationists like Mohler of raw, uncritical literalism is a red herring…



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          Grace

          posted January 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm


          It’s not a red herring. They make claims about the Bible that are fundamentally incompatible with everything we know from scientific, historical, and archaeological inquiry. That’s by definition uncritical literalism. They are a priori committed to conclusions regardless of what the evidence of science and social science indicates.



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          DT

          posted January 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm


          Grace:

          Accepting the Bible over science is not literalism: you can approach the Bible non-literally and still come up with a position that goes against modern science.

          My comment is in reference to approaching the Bible itself. Will you read it literally, non-literally, of somewhere in between? Painting creationists as people who always approach the Bible with extreme literalism IS a red herring.



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          Grace

          posted January 7, 2011 at 3:17 pm


          Unless you’re using ‘literalism’ in some extremely narrow way that I’m not familiar with, I’m having trouble seeing how you can read the Bible non-literally but still use it to argue against modern science.

          Whatever you call it, Mohler has no objection to evolutionary theory other than that his reading of the Bible requires it. That is, by definition, uncritical.



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          DT

          posted January 7, 2011 at 3:28 pm


          Grace:

          I am using literalism in reference to Biblical exegesis, I think this is where we are talking about different things.

          I am making the assumption that Biblical justification is sufficient to argue against modern science (whether you use a literal or non-literal hermeneutic), while you are not. I am an inerrantist, I take it you are not.

          I will go so far as to say that all creationists are innerrantists. I will not say that non-creationist Christians CAN’T be inerrantists, but if BioLogos is any example of such, I am not convinced…



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          LRA

          posted January 7, 2011 at 3:50 pm


          Biblical justification is sufficient to argue against modern science?

          No. The only way to argue for or against scientific precepts is with other scientific precepts. Science is an *epistemological* endeavor. If you want to deal with it, you must deal with it *epistemologically*. If you choose to argue supernatural precepts, you aren’t talking about science (as the supernatural is beyond science). If you choose to argue about facts in the natural world, your Biblical “evidence” is *not* sufficient to support claims about the natural world.

          In other words, *no* amount of Biblical justification makes *any* difference to the facts of nature. The facts are the facts, regardless of what the Bible has to say about them.



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          DT

          posted January 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm


          LRA:

          I’m not arguing that the Bible contradicts science and so the Bible has proven science wrong.
          I’m arguing that allowing the Bible to interpret the evidence results in a much different conclusion that much of mainstream science.



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          Grace

          posted January 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm


          I don’t take ‘literalism’ to mean a belief in the literal truth of every single word in the Bible, and I’ve seldom heard it used to mean that except by people who resent having the label applied to them. I mean the same thing by it that you probably mean by biblical inerrancy.

          The fact remains that it’s an a priori assumption. Inerrantists refuse to accept any evidence no matter how clear or valid that contradict their assumptions about what the Bible means. It literally can’t be disproven using any kind of evidence or methodology we have available to us. Which is what disqualifies it from being a scientific proposition, incidentally – it can’t be proven false.



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          LRA

          posted January 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm


          DT- If you want to take the facts of science an add some kind of supernatural/philosophical layer to it, I don’t have a problem with that. After all, people who are philosophical naturalists often use the facts of science to bolster their philosophies and fair is fair. I just want to keep philosophy separate from science.

          When religions (not just Christianity) try to change science as a whole to fit their religious paradigm, that’s when it turns into a bad deal.



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          DT

          posted January 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm


          Grace:

          I figured as much! The inerrancy debate is complex and off-topic, but the appearance of error in the Scripture is not proof of that error. What decision you make there depends on what side of the fence you are on. I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree here.

          Nonetheless, the problem I have with Christians who don’t hold to inerrancy, is how do they know what’s right or not? The errantist position would seem to end up boiling down to squabbles over which portions of Scripture are trustworthy and applicable to the extent that you eventually pay little attention to the Scripture at all.



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          DT

          posted January 7, 2011 at 4:22 pm


          LRA:

          Science can’t prove God, so we would never expect science to postulate a creator. Christians go beyond science in explaining how God is the cause of what we observe, even to the point of engaging in special creation (whether time-frame that might involve). Science in turn, looks back and sees nothing that hasn’t been observed, and so must advance a rigid uniformitarianism as to the origins of the earth. Evolution is POSSIBLE, but it is insufficient for the Christian, who must place God in the story of earth’s beginnings for the simple reason that if He is not there, He does not deserve to be the Judeo-Christian God.



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          Grace

          posted January 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm


          But the flip side of applying biblical inerrancy to science is that it leaves us unable to trust the evidence of our own senses, and obligated to simply avoid asking certain questions about the natural world because that reading of the Bible forbids them. Who knows how many discoveries and advances wouldn’t exist today if we just assumed the Bible is inerrant in its description of the natural world. That’s no basis for scientific inquiry.

          Never mind that you’re talking about a collection of books written over the span of a millenium, by and for people who at best believed that the sun revolved around the earth, and had a completely different understanding of the natural world than we do today, in a completely different cultural context, and in languages that have changed so much that capturing the original meaning of the text is a task that can only be achieved with great difficulty by trained scholars. It’s hard for me to see how claiming inerrancy is at all sensible or logical under such circumstances.



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          joel k

          posted January 7, 2011 at 4:33 pm


          Therein lies the problem. My interpretation probably strays from the absolutely correct on as does anyone else’s. While we likely do not have the complete and objective true meaning at our disposal, we can know a few things: (1) that any given interpretation by a human being is almost definitely flawed or at least incomplete; (2) that two contradictory interpretations cannot both be the objectively correct one; (3) that two contradictory interpretations can both be objectively incorrect; (4) that we can use textual and contextual clues to determine the relative strengths and weaknesses of various interpretations in relation to the objectively correct one; and (5) that if one denies any of the above that that person is at a serious disadvantage in being able to determine the most true interpretation.

          I would argue that, based on Al Mohler’s statements about “clear meaning” that he subscribes to the fallacy that his interpretation is not an interpretation and therefore rejects at least one of the first four facts stated above. As such, I would tend to consider that a relative weakness in his interpretation of Scripture, rather than a strength.



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    VorJack

    posted January 7, 2011 at 11:17 am


    I suspect he means that we don’t need to worry about looking for hidden meanings or complex interpretations. Each word does not have four viable interpretations, as some in the middle ages maintained.

    Or to put it another way, we don’t need scholars or priests to interpret the Bible for us, we can just do it ourselves.

    That said, I think it’s more of a catch phrase than a real concept. So it’s probably best to take it with a grain of salt. I’m sure he argues for historical context and deeper meanings when it suits him.



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Joseph Smith

posted January 7, 2011 at 11:13 am


As I have stated repeatedly, I accept without hesitation the fact that the stories in the Book of Mormon have never been proven through Archaeology. Armed with naturalistic assumptions, I would almost assuredly come to the same conclusions as BioLogos and the evolutionary establishment……



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Sarah Mae

posted January 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm


I think John Piper has an interesting perspective (your favorite person MPT!): http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/what-should-we-teach-about-creation



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joel k

posted January 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm


He makes a good point. The best way to avoid acknowledging the validity of 21st Century scientific understanding is to insist upon an 18th Century worldview. Personally, I have a hard time letting go of my 20th/21st Century understanding of the world, but I have to give the guy credit: at least he is acknowledging that the scientific evidence as viewed through a lens of how modern science universally treats such evidence largely supports the theory of evolution and contradicts Young Earth Creationism. This is more than many YECs are willing to acknowledge, so it is refreshingly honest in that regard, which is something that I have come to expect from Mr. Mohler.



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nazani14

posted January 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm


“the appearance of the cosmos as graphic evidence of the ravages of sin”
What cosmos is he lookin’ at? Obviously not the one I see, which is gorgeous. WTF, are we supposed to think that black holes are punishment for some star system’s sinfulness?



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Mike

posted January 7, 2011 at 3:49 pm


What is a “plain reading of Scripture” in this case? It doesn’t take a Hebrew scholar to tell that Gen 1:1-2:3 and Gen 2:4-25 are two different tellings of the story of Creation.

The first account takes 7 days. The second takes 1, “in the DAY that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” (the same word for ‘day’, ‘yowm’, is used in v. 4 – some translations write ‘when’, but if you’re going to be a stickler for “the word ‘yowm’ means a literal day” in the 7-day account, you can’t have it both ways)

The first says the order was plants, celestial bodies, birds and fish, animals, and then men and women together. The second suggests the order was man, then plants, animals, and finally the woman.

A “plain” reading then, if it means literal, is just going to leave you confused. Of course, I’m not saying throw the baby out with the bathwater. Both accounts are important to understanding God and the nature of his creation (‘very good’), and for beginning to establish the identity of God’s people.



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Christine

posted January 7, 2011 at 8:04 pm


Not to be a debbie downer, but I believe this is one of those… “the earth is the centre of the universe” cases. And it’ll take a few generations until the old views die out, and they’ll literally have to die out. Old men who believe this (my pastor included) will die before they believe in Evolution. And since the states is the biggest purveyors of this bad theology I suspect it will take the fall of America before the “I fight against Evolution as if it were Iraq”-Christian leaders will swallow hard enough to get down their pride and admit they might be wrong.



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    Grace

    posted January 7, 2011 at 8:16 pm


    I agree. His mind is already made up and can’t be changed. The battle here is really for the minds of young folks, and I think it’s ultimately a losing one in the age of the internet. I don’t take the kind of challenge Mohler represents to logical thinking lightly, but I also think a movement based on denying the basic principles by which we create scientific knowledge is doomed to failure in the long run.



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    Grace

    posted January 7, 2011 at 8:20 pm


    It also occurs to me – I think most American Christians, especially those who are creationists, don’t realize how confined this debate is to the U.S. Evolutionary theory is not a problem for even very conservative Christians in other parts of the Western world, just as more liberal/socialist politics are not as problematic for other western Christians as they are for Americans. There are lots of western countries with huge religious populations where creationism is not even remotely seen as a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in schools. The fact that we’re so obsessed with this debate in the states is yet another sign of how provincial we are.



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      presentlyhuman

      posted January 7, 2011 at 8:42 pm


      I did not know that and that is really fascinating.

      I would love to learn about the way Christianity is viewed/functions outside of the US but wouldn’t know how to go about doing that. But it had occurred to me that this was an American Christian issue.



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        Grace

        posted January 7, 2011 at 11:00 pm


        Yea. Creationism originated in the fundamentalist movement, which started in the US as a backlash against European (specifically German) biblical scholarship and liberal Protestant theology in the US and Europe. “Fundamentalism” comes from the idea of the return to biblical fundamentals that theological liberals had supposedly abandoned. Part of it was in response to evolutionary ideas – there were very devout Christians who accepted Darwin’s theories in the US, and most educated Christians in Europe and to a lesser degree in the US didn’t read Genesis literally (not just re: the creation account, but also re: the flood and other similar things). Long story short, creationism was part of the fundamentalist backlash against more liberal readings of the Bible. So it’s very tied up in specifically American Protestant religious and political traditions, and there weren’t really any analogous movements in Europe.

        This article shows rates of acceptance of evolution in “western” countries (somewhat loosely defined). The US has the lowest rates except for Turkey. There are a number of very religious predominantly Christian countries (Ireland, Malta, Cyprus, Greece, for example) that have significantly higher rates of acceptance of evolution than in the U.S. Very few fall below 50% acceptance of evolution, so the U.S. is in a pretty elite crowd, ahem.



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          Carina

          posted January 8, 2011 at 3:30 pm


          Interesting! I’m brought up in a conservative christian church in Sweden and creationism has never been a big thing. The evolution is mostly accepted and is not a threat to your faith. Of course I’ve heard about it once or twice (and that was back in the 80′s) but it’s not a big question. And nowadays it’s a complete “non-issue”.

          And another difference (as you pointed out) is that christianity in U.S. seems to be very political. Here you pray for the government but it would be very very very impolite to ask your church members to pray for a certain political party or person. That’s your own business.



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wasmfasm

posted January 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm


Sounds like a fundamentalist or fundamentalist logic wrapped up in a fancy academic package. But it still boils down to this. He interprets scripture one way and anything that disagrees with his interpretation is therefore wrong. Same argument dressed up differently. Here is the one statement that tells you how wrong he is.

“In fact, given a plain reading of Scripture, there is every reason that Christians should reject a uniformitarian presupposition. ”

What is he saying there? You should interpret the bible literally. At some point people need to understand that Gen 1 may not be literal and that some events described in the Bible may be literary descriptions of natural, albeit rare, events. The Bible makes a very poor history and very poor science book. Great literature and our only source for the knowledge of God, but very bad at teaching us science and of cataloging history outside of the history of Israel.



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